Goleta Water District serves 85,000 customers via 16,500 metered connections. In 2011, the district began exploring options to update its billing operations.
Initially, the district began evaluating solutions for electronic bill presentment and payment including credit cards, Web site presentment and e-bill presentment. In exploring these options, the district discovered a customer information system called FATHOM CIS from Arizona-based Global Water FATHOM. FATHOM offered solutions to the pressing need for electronic access channels for consumers, but also could replace and improve the district’s legacy back-office software products that had been used for billing as well as storage of customer and meter data.
The district began due diligence to compare several possible solutions, and to identify the functionality and advantages of each, the costs to the district and the benefits and changes to the district’s customer base. For Goleta Water, FATHOM offered the whole package, addressing several issues at once. Perhaps most importantly, FATHOM CIS is initially cost-neutral to the district, with a strong potential for increased revenues from more accurate billing and decreased costs as customers opt for e-billing.
FATHOM was born out of parent company Global Water Resources, which owns and operates 12 regulated water and wastewater companies in Arizona.
Global Water Resources saw rapid growth in the housing boom around the Phoenix area. In one of its utilities, the population exploded from 500 people in 2000 to 50,000 in 2010, driven by new residential construction.
The distribution and metering infrastructure was new. Yet, when Global Water Resources saw increased non-revenue water, the company inspected its distribution system and didn’t find any major problems to explain the increase.
The company kept looking for the answer. The next step was to do a comprehensive audit of its metered connections. To do so, Global Water built a cloud-based tool to develop a location-based billing system. In the process, it found a mix of seemingly small errors—individually insignificant but, in the aggregate, substantial. Perhaps a 2” meter was being billed as a 5/8” meter. Meters were missing from the billing system. In the end, every physical meter was correctly reconciled with the billing account. The company found its non-revenue water.